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Real Mentorship Starts with Company Culture, Not Formal Programs

Mentoring programs alone won’t sufficiently engage or develop your junior talent, especially if your culture doesn’t encourage mentoring on a regular basis. What your company needs instead are mentors-of-the-moment.

Mentors-of-the-moment help to promote a mentoring culture where all members of the organization — especially those in the middle to upper ranks — seek opportunities in daily interactions to develop or grow junior colleagues and peers. Even relatively brief interactions can lead to increasingly transformative developmental relationships. It is little wonder that most employees prefer organic or informal mentorships to those that feel forced or arbitrarily assigned.

Mentors-of-the-moment place a high priority on learning names, and they are willing to detour from their schedule to make space for uplifting interactions with others. These momentary exchanges are not heavy lifts, yet they create fertile soil for collegiality, sponsorship, and mentoring. Each involves deliberate interest, encouragement, guidance, and visioning about how the junior person might soar. Yet in aggregate, these momentary interactions bolster self-efficacy, belonging, and excitement regarding career possibilities. Ultimately, they create a context for the formation of transformational relationships.

Here are several recommendations to get started:

- Use simple mentor-of-the-moment conversation starters.

- Talk about their successes.

- Give and take feedback.

- Ensure clarity, transparency, and accountability.

- Hire and promote future mentors.

- Routinely assess the mentoring culture.

- Reinforce and reward mentoring behaviors.

To read the full HBR article, please click here.

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